Book Review: Last Chance by Lauren Runow

Last Chance by Lauren Runow

A Contemporary Romance Novel published (01/05/18)

Summary:

Mackenzie has always had a crush on her best friend’s older brother. Her fantasy is one night with him. It’s been eight years since she’s seen him, will he still think of her as his little sister’s friend or will he give her a chance as a lover and maybe more? Connor doesn’t want a girlfriend and spends most of his nights at a members-only club with a new stranger each night. Will the latest masked stranger change his mind?

Keywords:

Sex, Romance, Bucket List, Death, Best Friend, Sex Club, Older Brother, Contemporary

 

My Review:

From the beginning, this book promised heat and a lot of it! Our main characters have a not-so-chance encounter at a sex club where members aren’t allowed to take off their masks and everything goes. I thought the book might be too much erotica and not enough story. All steam and not enough romance. But I was wrong. The not-so-subtle hints the author leaves that Mackenzie is checking off her list (obviously a bucket list) and I immediately knew that she was dying and wanted to live life to the fullest while she still could. Since it was so obvious what was going on, the coy and deliberate way the author didn’t go into specifics about Mackenzie’s sickness was lost on me.

I was waiting for more details about Mackenzie’s sickness and not just her feelings about it. I wish there had been more depth to her illness and the way it was written, that the author had done more research and gone into specifics more. It felt like a romanticized version of the illness and not a realistic one, at least not until the end.

I never really liked Connor. At first, he comes across as an entitled prick with some antiquated views on women, and then he changes very quickly into a sappy and perfect romantic partner. I wanted more depth from his character.

The plot completely lost me toward the end with the soap opera style final wish of Mackenzie’s – one she hadn’t thought possible and hadn’t even considered putting in her list. The whole idea of it was off-putting to me.

I want to read a romance novel where I see myself as the characters, where I pine for the romance the characters have, where I am attracted to the leading love interest, and where I’m emotionally invested in the couple and their troubles, and I can’t put the book down. This novel did not check any of these boxes for me.

This book deals with an emotional subject but my eyes were dry.

The book is easy to read and the writing does flow so you can read it in one sitting.

This novel was published 01/05/18 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Lauren Runow’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: The Anti-Relationship Year: A Friends to Lovers Romance (The Pact) by Katie Wismer

The Anti-Relationship Year: A Friends to Lovers Romance (The Pact) by Katie Wismer

A New Adult Contemporary Romance Novel published by Ahimsa Press (03/30/21)

Summary:

“Just tell me this isn’t going to ruin everything,” she whispered. “Tell me this isn’t a bad idea.” Katie Wismer. The Anti-Relationship Year (Kindle Locations 2870-2871).

Johanna is a fresh-faced freshman – ready to take on the world of college. Jo meets Grey the first time she and her party-ready roommates and some of the boys from across the hall go to a local club. Jo can’t ignore or say no to his allure. Three years later, Jo is starting her senior year. The boy from across the hall, Miller, has been her best friend. He’s seen her ups and her downs. He’s been there when some of the more awful college experiences have taken away her optimistic innocence. He’s always been there for her… as a friend. Jo’s never considered him as anything more than that, but this last year has its own slew of surprises, not all of them pleasant and he’s still there for her and she will have to acknowledge her new feelings eventually.

Keywords:

Freshman Year, Senior Year, Party, Alcohol, Friendship, Dating, Gossip, College, Fraternity, Photography, Relationships, Emotions

My Review:

This story follows two timelines – the beginning of Freshman year chronologically from the first days at college through March and of Senior year chronologically from March through May. I really enjoyed these two timelines and the way the friends to lovers romantic storyline was told through two stories – Jo as a Freshman and Jo as a senior.

I really appreciated that this was a standalone in the same universe as the first book in the series. You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy the second and vice versa, although there was a nice little cameo of book one’s Meredith in this second book.

If you ever wanted a realistic portrayal of college life, then this book will give it to you. From endless nights of junk food to pre-gaming before parties to relationships. From the emotional ups and downs of navigating the first year away at college to navigating the end of college with some of the stress of graduation. This book realistically portrays the college experience (not everyone’s college experience but an honest one).

While Miller appears perfect, Jo is a slew of issues. She is both a product of her environment and upbringing and a consequence of her own actions. For a lot of the book, I didn’t like her. I really didn’t like the fact that Miller quietly adored her and did whatever to make her happy, without judgment. Why does Jo get a perfect friend like Miller? Why does Jo get a perfect boyfriend like Miller? But also – why do people turn on her for no reason? I felt sorry for her for the way people treated her and the judgments they passed on her while simultaneously disliking her for the way she acted and the way she treated Miller. She takes him so much for granted as a friend and most of the time it seems like a one-sided relationship until she starts to take him seriously as a romantic interest. Why does Miller stick with her when so many others have abandoned her? Why does he even like her so much?

Jo seems to get overwhelmed easily. Perhaps her reactions are exaggerated, but at the moment a lot of the situations she faces can have this effect on someone. This book really does show the realities and ugliness of relationships, the pettiness of so-called friends who will make fun of you behind your back while pretending to be your friend to your face, and how difficult it is to navigate being an adult in college.

This book was an easy and fast read and I’m really enjoying Wismer’s effortless writing style and can’t wait to read her next novel – be it YA, NA, romance, or something else entirely.

This novel was published by Ahimsa Press 03/30/21 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Katie Wismer’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: What the Elf? (The Cringle Cove Christmas Chronicles #5) by Kate Benson

What the Elf? (The Cringle Cove Christmas Chronicles #5) by Kate Benson

A Holiday Romance Novel published by Independently published (11/29/18)

Summary:

Abby and her twin always spend Christmas together in Cringle Cove and this year is no different. Abby despises the Holiday and can’t wait to spend her vacation reading horror novels. Dex hasn’t been back to Cringle Cove in years but he promised his now-ex he’d go along and meet her family, pretending they’re still together. And then Dex meets Abby. It’s so easy with Abby, unlike his ex. For Abby, the handsome stranger is nice to talk to, but it seems he has a girlfriend.

Keywords:

Christmas, Holidays, Romance, Ex, Breakup, Introvert, Twins, Giving Back, Multiple POV, Holiday Town, Santa, Coffee Shop

My Review:

This novel was an adorable and sweet Christmas romance – a fast and fun holiday read. I enjoyed this quick read. It reminded me of when I was bingeing sweet Holiday romances/romantic comedies last holiday season. They’re fun to watch/read while you’re watching and after you’ve finished you’re ready to move on to the next one.

The location, Cringle Cove, reminded me of Leavenworth in WA state. I do wish there had been more unique descriptions of the location that would make it more interesting, though this is the fifth book in the series so perhaps those little fun nuggets of description happened in the previous books in the series. The coffeeshop felt like any other coffee shop and the place the twins stayed didn’t feel that special. I wish there had been more details, in general, to make this book more unique. The sisters in the book were twins, but I thought this relationship could have been developed beyond the “besties” aspect. There was just enough backstory for each of the main characters Dex and Abby, but not much on Drew’s ex or Abby’s sister.

I really liked the way that the Holiday was truly integrated into the plot and characters’ backstories.

I really like dual POVs like this book and enjoyed both Dex and Abby as narrators.

This novel was published by Independently published 11/29/18 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Kate Benson’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Day One by Lauren Runow

Day One by Lauren Runow

A Romance Novel published by Independently published (05/02/20)

Summary:

“That’s adorable. You know, I’ve always said you’ll know how a guy feels by the effort he puts into getting to know you. I’d say, he’s all in.” (Kindle Edition, 47%).

Day one of quarantine and Sharee is already bored. After reactivating her Tinder, she is pleasantly surprised to get a private message from a normal-seeming and decent-looking guy. Sharee is already infatuated with this new guy after a few texts and phone calls when she finds out he just signed a multi-million dollar baseball contract! They might live in the same town as each other but since they’re following strict quarantine orders (during the pandemic lockdown) they’ll have to find creative ways to plan out dates.

Keywords:

Pandemic, Covid-19, quarantine, lockdown, dating, baseball, romance, social distancing, teacher, creative dates

My Review:

Day One is an entire novel of meet-cute! It felt like a Hallmark movie in a book. Adorable, predictable, and satisfying. I loved reliving the enthusiastic optimism and initial crush of online dating/app dating with Sharee and Drew. I was instantly transported back through my own nostalgia to my own first dates years ago. I enjoyed this very contemporary novel set in the middle of the (still ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine/lockdown.

Sometimes first-person can throw me off as it can be jarring but the first-person POV fits the easy-read simple style of this novel perfectly.

Sometimes in simple romances, one of the love interests can seem too perfect and to not have as much depth of character as the other love interest, but I felt like both Drew and Sharee were balanced. They were also fairly simple characters with simple backstories that worked well together. I was worried that all the dates were being planned and executed by Drew and that Sharee was not going to step up but eventually she did plan some dates and didn’t let Drew take all the initiative.

Overall this book was adorable and it was nice to read an optimistic pandemic novel that wasn’t doom and gloom.

This novel was published by Independently published 05/02/20 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Lauren Runow’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Asylum (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

Asylum (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Americans in Love Books (11/16/20)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

“These things couldn’t mask the horror of the port, the great divider between those privileged by their birthplace, and those cursed by it.” (44% Kindle Edition).

“America would break his heart again. There would be new challenges, new disappointments. But at least he would be safe, and his life would be his own.” (86% Kindle Edition).

Adela pushes against the justice system every day as an immigration judge. She believes in fairness and honesty but the system is rife with injustice, prejudice, and plain meanness. Paul left behind his high-end lawyer life in New York City to work as a lawyer advocating for asylum seekers at the border. Love, at first sight, can’t happen between a lawyer working on the same cases as the judge!

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Asylum, Lawyer, Immigration, Immigration Lawyer, Judge, Immigration Judge, Border, Mexico, Cartel, Tent City, Policies, Asylum Seekers, Courtroom

My Review:

I chose to read this book because it looked well researched regarding asylum seekers, the writing style flowed from the very first page, and it was easy to read. I was more intrigued by the descriptions of the courtroom scenes and the way that the author described asylum seekers, immigration, and prejudice near and far from the border than by the love story. This book would appeal strongly to those who enjoy love-at-first-sight romances, courtroom dramas, and social issues.

Regarding the romantic plot – I felt like the novel could have been longer to fully develop the romantic relationship between Adela and Paul. I felt like the romance went from first dates and lust to in love too fast. I really, really wanted them to get together after their compelling backstories. They were meant for each other but I wanted the relationship to grow more before they encountered complications at the border. I don’t believe highly educated people would drop everything and risk so much for each other after only spending a few days together.

The courtroom action and legalese speak were fascinating and cleverly explained through the character’s thoughts and opinions and even body language. When the characters showed how they felt about some of the legal actions (or inactions) I learned about the implications of these actions.

I learned so much about asylum seekers from reading this book. Some of the details about the hardships endured during the months’ long uphill legal battles for gaining asylum into the United States didn’t even seem real! The difficulty and apathy of the system for those seeking asylum were hard to swallow. A country that advocates for freedom isn’t free for everyone. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that birthplace is enough for some people to discriminate against. Birthplace can be a privilege. I know I take it for granted. It made me angry, just like it made Adela and Paul angry, to hear about these injustices and the blatant lies and prejudicial treatment people in positions of power wielded towards those less fortunate or just trying to make a better life for themselves. A good book can make you angry, make you feel something, make you understand and sympathize. Asylum made me feel all sorts of angry. But the book also reminded me that not everyone is a good person or has good motives. How far does the corruption go? This book points out small injustices and biases as well as indicating a larger issue with the justice system, immigration law, and asylum in general. I started to question the more I read. What if there is even more conspiracy? What if cartels pay off someone in the system to deport those who will be granted asylum just so they can be held for ransom? How far does it go!?

I really liked the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, especially where she talked about the importance of the subject matter versus the romance… “That said, my greatest fear in writing Asylum was that the romance would trivialize the importance of the asylum issue. I felt a heavy obligation not just to the story, but to the people behind the story. The ones living it. I did not want to insult them. The love story is meant to bring the reader in and keep her engaged. To provide just enough distance, a reminder that love is never far away, even in the most desperate of circumstances.” (Betsy Adams. Asylum (Kindle Locations 3096-3099). Americans in Love. Kindle Edition).

This novel was published by Americans in Love Books on 11/16/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: A Chance At L.O.V.E. (Love At Last #1) by K.L. Myers

A Chance At L.O.V.E. (Love At Last #1) by K.L. Myers

A Romance Novel published by KL Myers Publishing (7/2/18)

Summary:

“Normally, just the words ‘Lincoln Oliver Vincent Eastwick’ have people dropping money on anything I tell them to. Not this time.” (Kindle Edition 7%).

Lincoln will not settle. Not for an off-the-rack suit. Not for a relationship. He isn’t looking for love when he provides himself as a masked bachelor for the night at a local auction. But he is more than happy that Dr. Lillian Vicci won him in the auction. Dr. Lillian doesn’t have time for a relationship. She’s too busy saving lives as a renowned pediatric surgeon. When her best friend wins her a night with bachelor Linc, she will be more than a little upset because Linc’s nephew is going in for open-heart surgery on Monday.

Keywords:

Mafia, Surgery, Pediatric Doctor, Sex, Date, Millionaire, Family, Uncle, Siblings, Avoiding, Worry

My Review:

Lincoln has such obvious glaring flaws but also very strong virtues. He is endearingly loyal and caring towards his family, especially his young nephew Peanut, yet all his dates always end with sex. Linc would never bring a woman home to his real house (i.e. he won’t let a potential partner see his vulnerable side). I at first didn’t like Lincoln, especially from the very opening paragraph of the story, which set up the book as an average romance featuring a stereotypically egotistical male protagonist. Except, he isn’t… He is charismatic and charming for sure, but he’s also confident and devoted and would make an exceptional parent. I couldn’t wait for him to meet the woman who would prove to him that dates shouldn’t always end in a one-night stand.

I’m glad the author stuck with Lincoln’s POV for several chapters, as I really felt like I knew him by the time the POV switched to Dr. Lillian. Both main characters had equally strong backstories that made them very compelling and brought them to life. From the time that the two of them met, I was rooting for them.

The sex scene, when it ultimately arrived felt untrue to the story buildup. I much preferred the foreplay of all their previous interactions than to the sex scene that felt like a scene out of Literotica. I also was very turned off by the scene and how it starts. It also does not feel genuine to the characters that had been developed over the first 2/3 of the story. I am turned off by stories that feature romantic scenes where the woman says no (either verbally or through body language or both) but the man doesn’t listen and continues regardless… until she gives in. ‘“You’ve been avoiding me, Doc. This time, I’m not letting you avoid me.” I push my way past her, then I slam the door behind me. Before I know it, my animal instincts take over, pressing her back against the door and consuming her lips with mine. At first, she fights the kiss, but I can feel the moment she gives in.’

My other main issue with this quick and fun read was the lack of true climax and resolution. Though the author states that this story ends on a cliffhanger, I still think novellas and novels should have satisfying endings. This novella was like a prequel to the full story and should have just been part of the main story, in my opinion. Otherwise, it was a delightfully fun read and I really enjoyed all the character descriptions and motivations.

This novel was published by KL Myers Publishing on 7/2/2018 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Rally (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

The Rally (Americans in Love) by Betsy Adams

A Contemporary Romance Novel published by Americans in Love Books (7/10/20)

Summary:

“Being one third a lawyer does come in handy sometimes, I guess.” (33% Kindle Edition).

Madeline’s a corporate lawyer working for an insurance company that’s overseeing the use of a stadium. On the lineup for the week is a music group and a Trump rally. Madeline must coordinate details of these events with representatives from each group. The person working the Trump rally happens to be the guy she fell in love with during law school who suddenly dropped out and never contacted her again. Is this a second chance at love or will she have to make nice with the enemy to show her boss she’s ready for that promotion she’s been promised?

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Insurance, Rally, Politics, Trump, Stadium, Political Climate, College Flame, Opposing Political Views

My Review:

This book was a quick read, fast-paced, and short. I liked how the romantic buildup happened as part of the main characters’ backstory that happened years ago so it had proper time to develop. The romantic plotline was predictable but happened amidst an interesting and drama-filled environment – a rally where the main characters are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

The characters both made assumptions that caused the dark moment of the plot arc. I just didn’t believe the characters would fall for those assumptions, both being mostly educated lawyers. Some of these plot points did feel a bit rushed due to the length of the novel. I wish the dark moment was more believable and heartrending. I knew a happy ending was going to happen, regardless of the ups and downs of the romantic relationship and I was more invested in the political drama butting its way into the relationship.

I found the political aspect fascinating but not every reader might feel this way. Strong political opinions are expressed directly through Maddie’s thoughts and what she says as well as how the scenes and people are described. If you are left-leaning politically you will most likely feel that this book confirms your opinions. If you are much more right-leaning politically… Maybe you’ll learn about the strength of conviction of the other side? Or you might be put off entirely.

I was satisfied that everything tied together in the end and that there was an adequate explanation as to why Jake suddenly stopped all communication with Maddie when they were in school together.

This novel was published by Americans in Love Books on 7/10/2020 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary YA Romance Novel published by Laurie Boris (11/18/13)

Summary:

Daniel is a mid-thirties art teacher with a terminal illness. He is passionate about teaching, art, and maintaining his privacy. He has lived for years in an upstairs apartment to his downstairs landlady and her daughter, Caitlin. Caitlin grew up with concern for Daniel that has grown from protectiveness into her first real crush. Daniel starts teaching art to Caitlin, even giving her private lessons. As time goes on, Caitlin’s feelings for him grow stronger, even as Daniel’s condition worsens and he starts a relationship with a lonely married woman.

Keywords:

Coming of Age, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickness, Suffering, Art, Teacher, Painting, Love, Loss, Passion, Emotion, Coughing, Breathing, Pain, Infatuation, Protective, Family

My Review:

The world needs more books like this. Books with characters who have a terminal illness but are living their lives. Books where the terminal illness is a large part of who the character is and how it has molded them but also where the illness is not the main story line.

The way Boris describes breathing in this book brought me back to the days when I tripped my asthma and couldn’t draw enough oxygen. When the tendrils of panic would take hold. Maybe other readers who have never felt short of breath, short of oxygen, will also be able to sympathize and not just empathize with Daniel through these vivid descriptions.

The story itself was very interesting and I enjoyed both Daniel’s and Caitlin’s perspectives in their relationship.

The ending was very well written. It was truthful and abrupt. It was emotional yet inevitable.

This novel was published by Laurie Boris on 11/18/13 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

The Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris

A Contemporary Women’s Dystopian Novel published by Amazon Digital Services LLC (01/10/19)

Summary:

In a not-so-distant future Russia occupies America. Travel is limited. Employment is limited. Freedom is limited. Valerie grew up privileged as the daughter of the secretary of state but is now forced to cook for the army in this occupied-America. With her culinary background she impresses a Russian general and is given the ‘opportunity’ to work in his mansion. Christened “Three” she works with a head chef and four other chefs in the kitchen during the day. This opportunity involves being led to her work space in handcuffs every day, bullied and belittled by the guards and the guests at times, and forced to work for the same men who killed her father and are destroying her country’s freedoms. She knows she will not do nothing, will not work demurely, will not stand idly by if an opportunity presents itself.

Keywords:

Social Sci-fi, Cooking, Kitchen, Servitude, Occupied America, Passion, Friendship, Loyalty, Courage, Despair, Russia, Violence, Oppression, Tension

My Review:

Though supplies may be scarce, the kitchen brigade bring life and love to the dishes they prepare. Head Chef Svetlana says some very poignant remarks about cooking and food throughout the novel. It is their love of food and their passion for cooking that bring life to the kitchen and hope to their hearts. It is this passion that seems to lead them in other areas of their lives and gives them the willingness to stand up for what they believe in and the need to act when they can.

I enjoyed all the characters very much. Head Chef Svetlana seemed so complex when viewed from both her point of view and from Valerie’s point of view combined. Who is Svetlana really and what side does she work for? Valerie is very courageous, even in the beginning she does not yield instantly to her fate. Yet, she does not fight when there is no reason. She is industrious and clever. Two seemed the most complex character with the least explanation or backstory and I really enjoyed this slight ambiguity. In the height of chaos, what would she do? She is the loose cannon that could crumble Svetlana’s plans and yet Svetlana loves Two like a daughter. I adored Four so much! She was so cool. Each of the women in the employ of Svetlana in the kitchen were full of personality.

I enjoyed the details of running the kitchen, including food preparation, wine pairing, cleaning, herb gardening, and more.

This book had great suspension and tension throughout. The ending came suddenly and some of the action I couldn’t quite picture but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on 01/10/19 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Laurie Boris’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

Love Songs, Detours, Et Cetera (Senior Year Sweethearts Book 1) by Starla Huchton

An Contemporary YA Novel published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (04/14/19)

Summary:

On the first day of her senior year of high school in the small town of Highland, Iowa, Trina gets to school before any of the other students so she can volunteer and help the teachers. Trina bumps into the most popular and best looking boy on that first day. Is it her imagination or is he trying to follow her around school? Trina has one best friend in the entire school and everyone else either ignores her or makes fun of her and her mom. Why would Ethan give her the time of day?

Keywords:

Romance, Love, Friendship, High School, Sewing, Costumes, Musical, Alternative Lifestyle, Family, Best Friends, Senior Year, Volunteer

My Review:

Starla has a way with building amazing characters. I felt like I was Trina. She blends into the background and does her own thing but isn’t afraid to voice her opinion and stand up for herself. Trina drives an old car and has dreams of going places, specifically leaving her small town. Though I’ve never really been in a small town, I felt like I understood entirely the feeling of being unique and standing out in Highland, Iowa. I loved Trina’s interactions with her mom, with her best friend, and with Ethan. Trina’s voice was distinct and she knew what she liked, who she liked, and what she wanted.

The dialogue was clever and realistic and mesmerizing. I couldn’t get enough of it.

The romance was perfectly developed and I loved being inside Trina’s head with her nerves and her anxieties throughout it all. I especially loved Ethan’s reactions to Trina’s anxiety.

Ethan was also well developed as a character. He had a robust life outside of his interest in Trina. He had his own wants and dreams as well as his own faults and problems. I really enjoyed the complication of Emmaline, Ethan’s younger sister in the story as well.

The details of costume building and theater were super fun and I really liked how at this particular high school the theater nerd was the most popular kid in school.

This novel was published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. on 04/14/2019 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Starla Huchton’s Website

Goodreads